posted on Jan, 18 2005 @ 08:56 AM
U.S. coach welcomes replacements
By Ridge Mahoney, Special for USA TODAY
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — The frustration period has passed for U.S. soccer coach Bruce Arena. He has moved on.
He conducted his first two training sessions with replacement players Monday and — at least publicly — is simply doing the job of a coach readying
his team for an important game, although circumstances are growing more bizarre by the day.
"Last week was frustrating not knowing if I could get a team together and not having players," he says. "We have a direction now, and that's a
positive. Now we are able to focus on what lies ahead and get after it."
Denied his regular bloc of players because of a bitter pay dispute between them and the U.S. Soccer Federation, Arena has scrabbled together a
collection of players from the lower tiers of competition to begin preparations for a World Cup 2006 qualifying match Feb. 9 at Trinidad and
At Arena's instructions, the list of players is being kept private. Most play in the A-League, the second tier of American soccer below Major League
Soccer. Others play in the USL (United Soccer Leagues) and MISL (Major Indoor Soccer League). Arena said no Americans playing in Europe — of which
there are dozens, in addition to the big names such as Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, Claudio Reyna, etc. — are in camp.
"A lot of these players could play in MLS," Arena said. "I think a few MLS players might have accepted the invitation, but I felt in the end to invite
maybe one or two or three or four or five of them didn't make sense.
"The guys we have here give us the best opportunity to put a team on the field Feb. 9 with a chance to do something. These aren't amateurs or youth
players. These are players with professional experience."
The national team players have been locked out of the camp, originally scheduled to begin Jan. 3, by U.S. Soccer. Negotiations stalled once again last
week when the sides could not agree on terms to conduct mediation.
The players are paid from $2,000-$6,000 a game for qualifying matches, of which the Trinidad game is the first of 10. The players are demanding
greater compensation than the increases proposed by the federation. USSF says its offer represents an overall bump of 38% in compensation